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Abstract

The trend toward earlier patient discharges from hospitals has provided new incentives for hospitals and public health nurses to work together to ensure that patients receive uninterrupted quality care after discharge. This study investigated perceptions of the discharge process using a structured telephone interview to survey a sample of 30 adult patients who had been hospitalized for at least 24 hours in a small, rural community, hospital in the upper Midwest. The county public health nursing agency contracted with the hospital to provide discharge planning services. Patients identified discharge needs in 15 different areas, with a mean of 5.8 needs per patient. Twenty-seven percent of the patients received referrals for the services of a public health nurse, homemaker, or both before discharge. One week after discharge 37 percent of the patients continued to need assistance appropriate for referral back to the professionals or agencies with whom they had had initial contact. Elderly patients with chronic illnesses were more likely to have received referrals at the time of discharge than younger patients with acute illnesses. Family and friends were heavily involved in providing support services in the postdischarge period.